9 Days
Duration
Ahead, Dabbler
Difficulty

In 1538, Gonzalo Jimenez de Quesada reached the Tatacoa Desert and called it “Valley of Tears.” He was impressed by the immense, motionless scenery and haunting colors as he passed through in his search for El Dorado. He did not find El Dorado but his arrival opened this region to the Spaniards and the world. Two sophisticated long-gone cultures would be discovered in San Agustín and Tierradentro. UNESCO named both archaeological parks World Heritage Sites in 1995.

Travelling through the highlands and mountains of Huila and Cauca, travelers reach San Andrés de Pisimbalá and the National Archaeological Park of Tierradentro, In 1995, UNESCO described Tierradentro’s large, elaborate shaft and chamber tombs, a “unique testimony to the high level of artistic and social culture of the region over its long prehispanic history.” This unforgettable experience ends in Popayán, “the white city” and recognized by UNESCO for its gastronomy.

HIGHLIGHTS

Unique pre-Columbian monuments and art, in natural Andean settings.

Native English/German/French/Spanish translator who has lived in tha area for many regions.

Local guides, who know and love their region deeply.

Interaction with native cultures who have kept their knowledge and customs alive and fresh in the 20th century.

Arid deserts and incredible high Andean landscapes.

Popayán’s exquisite food, the only South American city recognized as a City of Gastronomy by UNESCO (vegetarian, vegan options available).

PHOTOS

MAP

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1

Neiva/Tatacoa

A morning flight from Bogotá. You will be picked up at the Neiva airport and taken to Villavieja, the town near the Tatacoa Desert. After your check-in, you’ll drive to the Tatacoa. Despite being called a desert, it is really a tropical dry forest. It’s 205 square miles of land cover one of the most striking sceneries in Colombia. The park will be ocher-colored in El Cusco when you get there. These afternoon colors will enhance your hike in the peace and silence among 8-foot cacti. The Tatacoa is also the site of an important observatory and you will be able to see all 88 star constellation in the early evening sky, either through the Observatory’s telescope or outside, in nature. Dinner at a local restaurant.
2

Tatacoa

The morning starts with a delicious breakfast and a return to another part of the desert. We will go deeper into the Tatacoa by bike, on a circuit called the Tatacoa ring. We will ride on adventurous single trails, crossing little creeks and passing goats. We will have lunch at the restaurant of El Peñon de Constantino where we can also enjoy a relaxing bath in the hot springs. In the afternoon we will return to the hotel, along the Tatacoa ring.
3

San Agustín

Early in the morning, we will travel through spectacular views and mountains to the San Agustín Archeological Park, the site of one of the most amazing archaeological sites in Latin America. After arriving in San Agustín and our hotel, we’ll visit a coffee farm tour and taste some of their superb java. Although not the best-known coffee region, Huila’s coffee is however, the most awarded variety in national and international events.
4

San Agustín

We’ll visit the sites of La Chaquira and El Pirutal. The culture that built the burial mounds and megalithic statues here thrived in the San Agustín Archaeological Park region between 1-900 AD. The site was finally abandoned in 1350 leaving a rich description of a unique civilization’s religious and economic social structure through its monuments. You will take an initial walk into the park and see the creatures and figures tell the story of this rich Andean culture. Lunch and dinner at local restaurants.
6

San Agustín/Tierradentro

In the morning, you can explore the Estrecho, a point where the massive Magdalena River is just a couple of feet across. After lunch, you will head to San Andrés de Pisimbalá (Tierradentro). Through the central mountain range of the Andes, it will be a 5-hour ride, past rugged mountain ranges, lush green countryside, canyons and waterfalls. Part of the wonder of Tierradentro is the nature it is deeply set in. Check-in and rest for the next day’s surprising episode. Dinner at a local restaurant.
6

Tierradentro

Discover the beauty of Tierradentro. Tierradentro’s shafts and underground chambers are intricately designed to mimic the interior of large houses with columns, statues, elaborate drawings and colors. Besides the Incas and the Aztecs, Colombia possessed the highest concentration of advanced pre-Columbian societies in the Americas. We will visit the sites of Alto de Segovia (Segovia Heights) and Alto del Duende (Elf’s Heights). In the afternoon we’ll take a walking tour to a little mountain called “Piramide” from which you can enjoy a stunning view. Lunch and dinner at local restaurants.
7

Tierradentro-Popayán

Leave in the morning for Popayán, one of the most beautiful colonial cities in South America. This is an opportunity to wander through the streets, appreciating Popayán’s wonderful architecture: churches, monasteries, universities and the wonderful local food. Do not forget the empanadas de pipián. Lunch and dinner at local restaurants.
8

Silvia

Silvia, Cauca, a village near Popayán, will be the site of this day trip to meet one of the most beautiful native cultures in the country: the Guambianos. Famous for their pink and purple clothing, their men wearing skirts and a matriarchal society, the Guambianos have rich knowledge, which you will experience first hand, through their delicious food and stories. You will also visit their hospital, based on natural healing and medicines and chat with their healer.
9

Puracé National Nature Park (Optional)

Early in the morning, we will visit one of the most beautiful places in the Andes, the Puracé National Nature Park. The park has impressive waterfalls, rivers, wildlife and plants at an altitude between 2500 and 4800 meters. There is also the possibility to see the rare Andean condor. In the afternoon, return to Popayán.
9

Popayán/Bogotá

Transfer to the Popayán airport and flight to Bogotá.

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